LiUNA Local 183 and OPDC donates $80,000 to SSHRC-funded Massacre Memorial Project in El Salvador

Aerial photo of the Sumpul memorial Memorial site under constructions in El Salvador.

On Saturday April 22, 2023, Jack Oliveira, Business Manager for the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LiUNA) Local 183 and Ontario Provincial District Council (OPDC) presented a cheque for $80,000 to the Surviving Memory in Postwar El Salvador research team, a SSHRC-funded project led by FIMS professor, Dr. Amanda Grzyb. Oliveira made the presentation in front of more than 500 people at “El Salvador Historical Memory Fest,” a cultural arts event in Toronto co-organized by Western University and the Salvadoran Canadian Association (ASALCA).

Established in 1903, LiUNA now has more than half a million members worldwide. Local 183 represents more than 70,000 members in the Greater Toronto Area, the largest local union of construction workers in North America. Many of its members are newcomers and immigrants to Canada, including workers from El Salvador.

Group photo of the cheque being presented On April 22, 2023, Jack Oliveira presented a cheque for $80,000 to the Surviving Memory in Postwar El Salvador team to support the completion of the Sumpul River Massacre Memorial in El Salvador (Photo: Shawn Robertson).

LiUNA’s donation provides the final piece of funding that the team needs to complete the Sumpul River Massacre Memorial, which commemorates the victims of the second largest massacre of the Salvadoran Civil War in Las Aradas, Chalatenango. The memorial is a community-based research collaboration between Western University, KU Leuven, Asociación Sumpul, and architects Harold Fallon, Evelia Macal, Thomas Montulet, and Roberto Urbina. It is supported, in part, by the Social Sciences and Humanities and Research Council of Canada. The Loretto Sisters (Toronto) also provided a $5000 donation for the project in 2022.

“It’s truly inspiring to see this kind of meaningful international solidarity across sectors and across communities,” said Grzyb. “LiUNA’s contribution to the memorial project represents a unique partnership between unionized workers, massacre survivors, scholars, and architects. We are all unified in our goal of commemorating the victims of state violence in El Salvador.”

Amanda Grzyb speaking from a podium Professor Amanda Grzyb speaks about the Surviving Memory in Postwar El Salvador research collaboration at the "El Salvador Historical Memory Fest" in Toronto on April 22, 2023 (Photo: Shawn Robertson).

Miriam Ayala, a survivor who lost her 16-year old sister in the 1980 massacre, also expressed her gratitude. “We are infinitely grateful to [LiUNA] for the donation they have made to the Sumpul Massacre Memorial,” she said.

For Fran Mejía, a Salvadoran youth leader and son of a survivor, the memorial project represents an important contribution to intergenerational knowledge in El Salvador. “[The memorial contributes] to the education of young people, like me, who did not live through the civil war, but who are very committed to commemorating it in gratitude to our parents who fought, to the people who gave their lives, so … today we can enjoy our rights,” said Mejía.

While the team works to complete the Sumpul River Massacre Memorial project by May 2024, they are also co-designing community memorials with survivors of the El Higueral Massacre, the La Laguna de San Ramón Massacres, the Guinda de Mayo Massacres, and the Gualsinga Massacre.


Related stories:

Western News: Researchers and students preserve and document El Salvador civil war memories
Western News: El Salvador research project receives major grant
FIMS News: FIMS PhD students and Western Libraries help launch Media Library in El Salvador